We’re back! We had a wonderful time, just no one ask Luffy about it. The A/C in our car went out about two hours into his 12 hour drive home and he’s, understandably, not ok with it yet. I felt so bad for him having to make that hot drive alone, but also grateful that it happened after the dumpling and I were dropped off.
But our vacation! We had a fantastic time with the dumpling and our neighbors. I won’t regale you with a day-by-day synopsis of what went on, but I do have to include a few of my favorite anecdotes:
First up – the travel! The dumpling did great on both flights. He had a bit of a meltdown at the tail end of the flight going there. For landing, I gave him the option of sitting in his seat (buckled) or sitting in my lap. (At takeoff, he’d been very nervous and sat in my lap). He did not want to be buckled, so he defaulted to my lap, but he was very upset with me when I wouldn’t let him kick the seat in front of us. A bit of a mini wrestling match ensued, but all was fine in the end. We de-planed and took off to find dada.
The hour and a half turned two hour (thanks traffic!) drive to Gulf Shores went okay-ish. After thirty minutes of being at a literal standstill, the dumpling started to get feisty, though I managed to distract him with some of those water coloring books. Those lasted another half hour or so until hunger, I think, caught up with him. He’d had a light lunch at 11 and I fed us a protein heavy snack before the flight. He’d snacked on craisins throughout the flight, but he hadn’t had anything really substantial since breakfast and it was pushing 7pm. Unfortunately, motion sickness was also getting to him, so he didn’t really want to eat. We eventually got to our little rental home and the dumpling was SO excited, especially when we saw the neighbor’s kiddo, Gavin. The dumpling zoomed around the house, checking out rooms and the deck, positively bursting with energy.
On the way back, we had a two and a half hour drive to Gulfport. The dumpling managed to fulfill my wildest dreams by taking a nap in the car at 10am. He slept for an hour and I was so pleased with that because it was the only day that I didn’t have a nap outlined for him. (I consider it my duty as a parent to provide a nap opportunity of his preference at a reasonable napping point during the day. For our travel day there, we left for the airport really early to build a car nap into his schedule. For our days on vacation, I still took him in the car for his nap. This day was the only day that I truly didn’t have any idea what I’d do for his nap since our flight was right at naptime. I just kind of hoped for the best). ANYWAY. The dumpling got an early nap in, which was even better considering our flight was delayed for half an hour. In a stroke of luck, we were flying out of the smallest, nicest airport I’ve ever seen. In the two hours we were there, no other flights landed or took off, so the airport was basically empty. The dumpling had (almost) free reign to run anywhere. It was glorious.
Since we arrived so late our first day, we didn’t attempt to take the dumpling to the beach until the next morning. The dumpling woke up just a touch before 6am and we decided to take a walk down to the beach. Our house was literally a minute’s walk from the beach, so we were in a great location. We walked down and tentatively introduced the dumpling to the ocean and, to our delight, he loved it. He had such a blast that morning walking in the surf and playing chase with the ocean. He came back drenched head-to-toe and we had a very hard time pulling him away. Our mantra for leaving the beach would become “we’re not done playing at the beach” as that was the only way we could get him to come inside with us.
That first full day of vacation was a delight and, honestly, probably my favorite day. We played in the surf for an hour that morning, then came back in for breakfast and a break before heading back out mid-morning. We probably played for another couple of hours before breaking for a very late lunch and nap. We headed down again in the late afternoon before coming in for a home-cooked dinner.
The dumpling had a blast, of course, because our general schedule pretty much went out the window. He stayed up late and ate what he wanted. We indulged every request for goldfish or juice (joke’s on him! his “juice” is extremely watered down Gatorade) and considered french fries and ketchup to be an adequate dinner. He had free reign over our iPad for dinosaur videos, was introduced to Peppa Pig by Gavin’s little sister, and was welcome to watch whatever movie our friends had going on their Apple TV (usually Moana as their little girl loves it).
I do have to chuckle a bit because it became pretty clear that we are raising a little indoor-child. After that first day on the beach, where we spent hours playing, it actually became a little harder to get him to go down. So much so that by the last afternoon, when presented with the option of going down to the beach for the very last time or staying inside – he chose to stay inside.
On July 4th, we had a bit of a snafu. We had been playing at a nearby pool in the morning and set off for the 5-10 minute walk home when it was clear the dumpling was tired. I was carrying him, doing my best to center his weight across my ever-expanding abdomen, when I suddenly realized that he was a little too limp. Oh crap, he’s asleep.
Sure enough, he had fallen asleep on me as I trudged through the hot sand. After an unsuccessful attempt at a transfer to his bed, he was awake and oddly happy about it. Luffy was tired and upset over our blunder; I sent him off to take a nap himself while mentally preparing myself for a hellacious afternoon with a cranky kiddo, but it never happened. I got him a snack and he settled down with Gavin to watch something on the iPad. I was able to make myself lunch and actually sat down at the dining table to eat it, feeling like a queen. The dumpling didn’t even get mad at the commercial breaks on YouTube (which I haaate – you watch a video on the PS4 and there’s one commercial at the beginning – you watch the EXACT SAME VIDEO on the iPad and there’s a commercial every two minutes). Instead, he’d use the commercial break to run and grab a handful of popcorn. It was super cute.
All afternoon, we quietly did our own thing until 3:30 rolled around and I knew it was time to make a decision. He’d slept for 10 minutes that day after getting up at 5:20. If I wanted to give him another opportunity for sleep, it was now or never. Since he’d been so pleasant, I was hesitant to force him into the car for a nap. However, he started to do subtle things that I knew indicated he was tired, so I did end up forcing him into the car. And lo, he was not happy with me. He screamed at me, screamed. After 10 minutes of driving, he was still writhing and screaming as only preschoolers on a mission can do, so I did the only thing I could do – I gave in to his demand to go that way and turned the car around. I apologized for upsetting him and told him we’d go back home. He was asleep within seconds. I actually ended up having a hard time waking him and he slept for a full hour even though I had wanted to keep it around 30 minutes.
We rolled with it though and just reminded ourselves that this way he could stay up for the 9pm fireworks. Which was fun! We busted out glow sticks and the kids had a blast. We ended up being in a prime location. Our house was next to a condo resort that put on a large fireworks display over the water. We could watch the fireworks from our deck, which was the perfect low-pressure way to introduce the dumpling to fireworks. Some people in the area fired some rather large ones off as we were waiting so the dumpling got to see a few one-off ones before the large display. He seemed excited, but I think the build-up got to him and he requested to go inside right before the display began. He and I cuddled on the couch for a minute before I realized we could watch them from the window. I made sure that I was full of ooohs and awes for his benefit and he had a great time watching them. He braved going outside in the middle of the display for a minute before promptly requesting to go back inside for the remainder of the display.
Speaking of sleep, the dumpling did pretty great on that front too. His sleep, as y’all know, is always a wildcard while out of town. Luffy and I envisioned the worst while trying to come up possible sleeping arrangements. One of the rooms had a bunk bed in it and, at first, we thought he might like sleeping in there with Gavin. But it turned out that our neighbors wanted their older son (15yo) to sleep in there. We discovered the bunk bed also had a twin trundle and thought the dumpling could sleep on that. Luffy expressed some concerns (the fact that he’d be basically on the floor of a room where he’d be going to bed the earliest and what would happen if he got up in the middle of the night?) that I initially brushed off before panicking over them at midnight the night before we left (typical Belle move, that one). Then, an epiphany! I realized we could pull the mattress from the twin trundle and put it on the floor of our room, which is exactly what we did. We wedged it between the dresser and our bed, so that he was somewhat closed in. He did fantastically. He did request that Luffy sit with him to fall asleep and he did have a couple of middle-of-the-night wakeups (dada! he’d exclaim before I vaulted out of bed to re-tuck him in). We had one super early 5:20 wake-up (that day, I just took him out on the deck with me to watch the sunrise), but he slept until about 6am most mornings. Our day began with his little head popping up over our bed and tiny little giggles as he crawled in with us. It was precious.
And the food, oh the food. Being pregnant, I’m a bit of a downer on the adult beverage front (though my mouth watered over the bottles of lemon vodka and prosecco in the pantry), but I’m pretty sure I ate more than my share of food. One fantastic upside of renting a house, as opposed to staying in hotels, is the access to a kitchen. Even nicer, a couple of our traveling companions enjoy cooking. Thus, I gorged on homemade spaghetti and breakfast tacos, and waffles, and biscuits, and frito pie, and queso. It was all delicious. Plus, our neighbors had arrived a day earlier and stocked up on snacks like chips and cheez its, cookies and candy. I had a couple of shrimp po’boys for lunch/dinner and one delicious bowl of ice cream the night we visited the resort (food trucks and a foam party which the dumpling thoroughly enjoyed). I’m pretty sure I managed to pack on a couple of extra vacation pounds, just in time for my prenatal check-up this morning, but it was well worth it.
All in all, a great vacation. All three of us were worn out yesterday and spent the day lounging about. The dumpling even took his nap on me, on the couch, much to my pleasure. It was a fantastic week.